Rio Tinto’s iron ore output falls 2% year-on-year
Rio Tinto reported lower quarterly iron ore output as wet weather and labour shortages impacted its mine and port operations in Western Australia.
Above average wet weather in the mines and workforce availability disrupted maintenance during the quarter, Rio said, while Tropical Cyclone Seroja impacted operations in April, reports Reuters.
Production for the quarter stood at 76.4 million tonnes, down 2% from the same period last year.
“You’d have to suggest that its a pretty average result. They have not delivered iron ore into a solid pricing environment,” said David Lennox at Fat Prophets in Sydney.
“There’s nothing that they can do about wet weather – it may be that they are going to have to live with changing environmental conditions. What will save them is the fact that they have got higher commodity prices generally, especially iron ore and copper.”
The world’s biggest iron ore producer shipped 77.8 million tonnes (mt) of the commodity in the quarter ended March 31, up 7% compared with 72.9 mt last year. It maintained its forecast of shipping between 325mt and 340mt of iron ore in 2021.
Rio has benefited from strong demand for its higher quality Pilbara blend products due to solid margins at China steelmakers as construction activity and steel demand in the first quarter eclipsed 2020 and 2019 levels.
China’s renewed focus on cutting steelmaking emissions will likely restrain steel exports in 2021, supporting margins globally, it said.
Copper production fell 16% on year ago levels after covid-19 prevention measures limited labour availability in Escondida in Chile.
Its Oyu Tolgoi copper shipments have been impacted by Chinese boarder restrictions due to increased cases of covid-19.
“We declared force majeure on shipments from 30 March and continue to work closely with authorities and our customers to manage the risk of supply chain disruptions,” it said.
“Rio has resumed cross-border concentrate shipments into China on 15 April however, the situation is very fluid with the covid-19 resurgence in Mongolia.”
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.